Their believed their low opinion of Democrats was justified when, four years later, they nominated Obama. Mark was the most vocal, yelling angrily that Obama was a socialist who would take money away from middle-class people “like us” and give it to “those tool-and-die guys”, apparently forgetting that he had been a “tool-and-die guy” himself only a few years earlier.
They all assumed I was going to vote for Obama. Bob gently teased me for my naïveté in believing he would keep his campaign promises, while Eric and Lorna each took me aside and told me earnestly that Obama was not “the long-awaited Messiah”. I agreed that Obama was no more likely than any other politician to keep his campaign promises, without telling them that I wouldn’t be voting for him because he wasn’t a liberal, as he pretended, much less a socialist, as they imagined.
Three months ago, when I returned to the company, I wondered whether anyone there had learned anything in the interim. I gently teased Bob for voting for Trump, just as he had teased me for voting for Obama, expecting him to deny having voted for him. To my surprise he said he was “still cautiously optimistic” about Trump. I’m sure Bob knows Trump is a disaster. He’s too intelligent to be the ‘true believer’ he pretends to be.
Mark surprised me by telling me that party labels are meaningless. He said Bush, Obama, and now Trump, are all war criminals who should be strung up from the nearest lamppost. He and I speak more often now, and more honestly, than we did eight years ago.
Even Nick said he’s never taken any interest in politics until now, but Trump scares him.
Today I was sitting at my desk, aware that Nick was babbling again, but paying no attention until I heard the words “Pavlov’s dog”. I then turned my head and saw everyone else was looking at me.
“You got his attention”, said Amanda. “I bet you know about Pavlov’s dog, don't you?".
“Of course,” I said. “I’m Russian.”
“I was just telling them I was out with my buddies last night, and I made a joke about Pavlov’s dog, and none of them knew what I was talking about”, Nick said to me. “Can you believe it?”
I could believe it, because everything Nick has said about his buddies suggests they’re mindless fools. But I was surprised that Nick knew about Pavlov’s dog – or rather admitted to knowing about it, because he’s been careful to give the impression that he is himself a mindless fool who knows and cares about nothing except video games and action heroes. But I’ve always found his puer æturnus act even less convincing than Bob’s ‘true believer’.
While I wondered why he’d stepped out of character, Nick continued talking. I don’t know how he managed the segue, but for some reason he was now talking about Schrödinger.
“Pavlov’s dog got into the box and had a fight with Schrödinger’s cat,” I said. “That’s why the cat was dead when the box was opened.”
“That’s not a joke,” Nick said, frowning at me. “I told them a joke, but that’s not a joke.”
I went back to work.